swimming in the sky, angels in the woodshed

A small worry has been firewood. We worked on a pile of cedar logs, felled a few years ago, while we could, while John could still handle the heavy saw, and we also had a guy bring two cords (which is always less, no matter whom it is: the polite question when you call them, “So it’s a real cord?”, and yes, they promise, and then the wood comes and it’s never a cord). But it wasn’t going to be quite enough to get us through the winter. We have electric baseboard heaters but that’s a very expensive way to heat a house.

And then a friend called to ask what we needed him to do. Could I do some yard work for you, he wondered. Could we — meaning him and his young son–split kindling for you? As soon as John mentioned the cedar logs, he said right away that they’d come and cut them, split them. Could they use our saw? Absolutely. This morning they arrived in their truck and spent a good few hours down in the old orchard, cutting and splitting and filling the truck. When they arrived up at the house, I brought out muffins and coffee, and we talked (at a distance) by the woodshed, which was looking pretty depleted. But then they unloaded and stacked the sweet-scented cedar behind the dry fir. In a few weeks it will be ready to burn. I thought of Du Fu (I know I write about him often) with his firewood gate in Chengdu City, a man who understood the importance of heat in the cold months. And the knowledge of life’s

After the battle, many new ghosts cry,
The solitary old man worries and grieves.
Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,
Snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.
The ladle’s cast aside, the cup not green,
The stove still looks as if a fiery red.
To many places, communications are broken,
I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.

It wasn’t grief that kept me from reading my books this morning but gratitude for angels. I looked out to see a father throwing wood from the back of a truck and a son stacking, his red tuque bright in the December air.

After they left, I pulled on my bathing suit and we went down to the lake. The sky has been so beautiful today and I said as we walked under the huge firs, If we hadn’t come, we’d have missed this.

I swam in that sky, across the clouds held within the body of the lake. And came home to warm myself by the stove. As I type this, “Angel from Montgomery” has just come on the radio and I’m smiling and singing along, though of course I’ve changed the lyrics a little: Send me two angels from Halfmoon Bay. (Because they did come, a small miracle.)


5 thoughts on “swimming in the sky, angels in the woodshed”

    1. People have been so thoughtful and kind, Leslie, esp. appreciated given these difficult times. Firewood, halibut with pine mushrooms, chicken noodle soup, squash and apple soup, an unexpected jack’o’lantern, flowers, red wine and strawberry jam, books, videos of little boys asking if Grandad was still in the hospital (and yes, he was!). The swims are the light that was always waiting.

  1. Hi Theresa. I am late in coming to the blog this week as my computer was not up and running but here I am and your entries on your winter swimming put me in mind of a book I read a few years back: Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal by Al Alvarez. You might enjoy it and find the echoes of a kindred spirit amongst the pages.
    The images of the lake are beautiful!

    1. Hi Elaine — you’re the second person to mention the Alvarez book! So I’m going to look for it. (I read his book on suicide many years ago, mostly for the chapter on Sylvia Plath. It was fascinating.) Jessica Lee’s Turning is a beautiful exploration of swimming year round in lakes near Berlin. She had to chop ice at one point; I don’t think I’m hardy enough for that…

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